South Korea November exports show fragile, uneven global recovery

South Korean exports last month marked their first back-to-back growth of the year, but demand from the advanced economies was weak, data showed on Saturday, indicating any global recovery would be fragile at best.

November exports grew by 3.9 percent over a year earlier to $47.8 billion on top of a revised 1.1 percent rise in October, while imports last month rose by 0.7 percent to $43.3 billion, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy data showed.

The November data, released for the first time by a major exporting economy, and the robust survey findings in China disclosed earlier in the day offered fresh signs of the global economy regaining some momentum.

Shipments to China and the southeast Asian countries posted sharp gains over a year earlier, whereas demand from the United States and the European Union shrank, according to break-down figures for the November 1-20 period released later.

“Robust data from China and today’s Korean data increase the chances for Korean exports maintaining a modest recovery,” said Park Sang-hyun, chief economist at HI Investment Securities.

RARE ANNUAL DROP IN EXPORTS

Data released earlier on Saturday showed China’s manufacturing sector activity was at a seven-month high in November, while South Korea’s October industrial output also expanded for the second straight month.

“But as Europe and the U.S. are not getting any stronger soon, any global recovery will be an uneven and fragile one for the time being,” Park added.

Analysts in a Reuters survey had forecast November exports would grow a median 2.6 percent over a year before on top of a revised 1.1 percent gain in October, when overseas sales posted their first growth in four months.

The ministry’s data showed South Korea ran a trade surplus of $4.48 billion for November, compared with a revised surplus of $3.73 billion in October. The country’s trade balance has been in black for all but two months since early 2009.

Meanwhile, exports for the January-November period were 0.8 percent less than the comparable period of 2011, making it highly likely the country will miss its export target of a 3.5 percent gain set for the whole of 2012.

Reuters calculations show South Korean exports this year would post an annual loss unless shipments in December grow 9 percent or more on a year-on-year basis. The country’s exports grew in all but three years for the past 50 years at least.

South Korea is home to some of the world’s largest suppliers of cars, smartphones and ships. It sends roughly a quarter of its total exports to China and about 10 percent each to the European Union and the United states.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

French firms must fight China for stake in Africa: Moscovici

French companies must go on the offensive and fight the growing influence of rival China for a stake in Africa’s increasingly competitive markets, France’s Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said on Saturday.

France, which once ruled over much of West Africa as colonial master, continued to exert direct and indirect influence over its ex-colonies for decades through a murky system of patronage known as “Francafrique”.

However, that regional reach is now being challenged by a new Chinese investment blitz.

“It’s evident that China is more and more present in Africa…(French) companies that have the means must go on the offensive. They must be more present on the ground. They have to fight,” Moscovici told journalists during a trip to Ivory Coast.

France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande has promised to break with his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s business-focused policy towards Africa and root out the last vestiges of Francafrique.

However that does not mean France will back away from competition with China for economic influence in Africa, Moscovici said.

“Africa is booming. Sub-Saharan Africa will have the second highest regional growth after Asia in 2012 with a rate of 5.5 percent,” he said.

“The new phenomenon is that African growth has the potential to stimulate growth in France. We want to be present there.”

French firms including infrastructure group Bouygues and energy company Areva are on the front lines in the race for markets in former colonial nations from Ivory Coast to Cameroon.

But working in sub-Saharan Africa carries risks that some firms are loath to take, as demonstrated by the kidnapping of seven Areva employees in Niger in 2010.

At the same time China’s trade with Africa reached $166.3 billion in 2011, according to Chinese statistics, and African exports to China – primarily resources to fuel Chinese industries – rose to $93.2 billion from $5.6 billion over the past decade.

China in July offered African countries $20 billion in loans over the next three years, double the amount pledged in the previous three-year period.

Moscovici said the creation of a new Public Investment Bank would boost the competitiveness of French companies on the world stage.

The fund of around 40 billion euros ($52.02 billion) is intended to ease lending to small and medium-sized businesses and inject capital directly into selected companies. The law creating it passed the lower chamber of France’s parliament last week and will go to the Senate later this month.

“It will be the bank for the SMEs. It will be the bank of…the regions. It will also be the bank for exports,” Moscovici said.

“And it’s on this basis that our businesses will head out with more confidence to conquer new markets and be more present in our traditional markets,” he said.

Moscovici was due to sign a debt conversion contract with the Ivorian government on Saturday that will see 630 million euros of the west African nation’s debt to France transformed into poverty reduction projects.

Initial projects will target areas, including infrastructure construction and rural development, aimed at stimulating Ivory Coast’s economic growth. ($1 = 0.7689 euros)

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)

Elections Canada investigates call complaints in 56 ridings

Elections Canada investigators are tracking complaints of misleading or harassing phone calls in 56 ridings during the 2011 federal election campaign, newly released court documents show.

The documents show exactly how widespread the investigation has become since it was first revealed that the election agency was looking into allegations of misleading phone calls in Guelph, Ont. The documents, known as information to obtain a production order, cover phone records for customers of Vidéotron in Quebec and of Shaw in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. A production order for Rogers hasn’t yet been publicly released.

The phone records requested cover nearly one-fifth of Canada’s 308 ridings. Elections Canada has said they are looking into complaints from 1,399 people in 247 ridings.

Elections Canada investigator John Dickson says in the Shaw production order that he believes the information will help him identify whoever made the calls.

He also says the agency got 99 complaints of misleading or harassing calls before the first media report last February. Once the news broke, the agency got another 1,048 complaints, not including the 252 complaints from Guelph. Some people reported both misleading and harassing calls.

‘Not an isolated incident’

Of the 36 ridings Dickson is investigating — another investigator is looking at 20 ridings in Quebec — a Shaw security official said the same incoming phone number called “at least several” of the complainants on May 1 and 2, 2011, at least six times, he wrote in the production order.

There are complaints from another 217 people in 31 of the 36 ridings who weren’t Shaw subscribers, he said.

The production order details what each person remembers from the calls, but shows the difficulty of trying to investigate what many wrote off as prank calls almost a year before they were interviewed.

One voter from Winnipeg told Elections Canada that he called back a number that showed up several times on his call display and thought that he had reached a call centre.

The man, whose name is blacked out of the documents, says the number was from an area code in North Dakota, where he has a relative, so he dialed it, thinking it was a call from the relative.

The call was answered, and while the recipient went to see whether they could find someone by the name he provided, the man says he heard the sounds of a call centre in the background.

“He stated that he heard people making calls with respect to voting and it sounded to him as though the calls were being directed mostly to the Toronto area. He said he heard people talking about carrier trouble and targeting Ontario, and he heard people mention Guelph and Thunder Bay,” Dickson recounts in the document.

In the House of Commons Friday, New Democrat MP Craig Scott said what happened in Guelph was “clearly not an isolated incident.”

“Conservatives can no longer pretend that this is just a few rogues in Guelph,” Scott said.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre provided no new explanation, referring only to the party’s co-operation with investigators on the Guelph allegations.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett called for Conservative MPs in the ridings hit by allegations to speak up.

“Will Conservatives come clean to Canadians, or are they waiting for the RCMP to once again raid their headquarters?”

No interviews with Conservatives

However, the production order shows it’s taking months for the party’s lawyer to arrange interviews for Dickson. He first spoke with Arthur Hamilton on Aug. 7, in a phone call in which Hamilton asked Dickson to go through him with any requests.

“On Aug. 30, 2012, I spoke with Mr. Hamilton by telephone and discussed with him the issue of whether the Conservative Party or its candidate in several [electoral districts] noted herein made such calls. He advised me he would look into the matter and reply,” Dickson wrote.

“On Sept. 20, 2012, Mr. Hamilton advised me he will put the request forward for a response. On Oct. 2, 2012, Mr. Hamilton advised me that he will attempt to arrange for me to speak directly with the appropriate campaign official. On Oct. 30, 2012, Mr. Hamilton advised me that he anticipates being able to facilitate such meetings in the near future.”

Conservative officials have repeatedly denied any link to the misleading phone calls and say they ran a clean and ethical campaign.

The records were released as part of a Federal Court case in which six applicants, backed by the Council of Canadians, are challenging the election result in their ridings. That case will be heard Dec. 10.

The justice of the peace who granted the production order also granted Dickson’s request to seal the names and phone numbers of the complainants he mentions in the document.

The case has drawn enough media attention, Dickson wrote in the request for the production order, that the complainants would “garner attention from the media and otherwise which could cause them to decide not to co-operate further with the investigation.” It could also cause a chilling effect for witnesses who haven’t come forward yet, he added.

CBC Radio’s The House in-depth interview with Justin Trudeau

This
week on 
The
House
,
Evan Solomon sits down with Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau
for his
first national broadcast interview since he announced his
candidacy.
What’s his take on the economy, coalition and merger talks, pipelines, China, putting a price on carbon, and his father’s legacy?


Emmanuelle Latraverse, the Ottawa bureau chief for
Radio-Canada and host of “Les Coulisses du Pouvoir.”
, and Rob Russo, the Ottawa
bureau chief for the Canadian Press
, join us to dissect the Trudeau candidacy, and his comments on Friday about the long-gun registry.


With
the world watching the United Nations’ General Assembly on Thursday, 138
countries voted to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a non-member observer
state — an upgrade from its previous non-member observer status. Nine countries
voted against the resolution, including Canada. What impact will Canada’s vote
have on the region?
We talk
to Michael Bell, a former Canadian ambassador to Jordan, Egypt, and Israel.


Finally, Kady
O’Malley
 looks
at a private member’s bill, C-398, that received a lot of attention on Parliament Hill
this week.

 

Mexico swears in new president Pena Nieto

The party that ruled Mexico for seven decades will return to power with a president from a new generation to govern a country that has changed dramatically in the 12 years since the Institutional Revolutionary Party last held the top post.

Enrique Pena Nieto will take the oath of office Saturday after campaigning as the face of a new PRI — a party that claims to be repentant and reconstructed after voted out of the presidency in 2000. The PRI ruled for 71 years with a mix of populist handouts, graft and rigged elections.

Canada’s Gov. Gen. David Johnston will be attending the ceremony.

Pena Nieto has promised to govern democratically with transparency. But his first moves even before the inauguration showed a solid link to the past.

In announcing his Cabinet on Friday, he turned to the old guard as well as new technocrats to run his administration.

“I don’t think there is any such thing as a ‘new PRI,”‘ said Rodrigo Aguilera, the Mexico analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit. “There is a new generation of PRI members, but they don’t represent any fundamentally different outlook.”

Demonstrations expected

Pena Nieto assumed office in the early seconds of Saturday during a brief ceremony with outgoing President Felipe Calderon at Mexico’s historic National Palace.

Pena Nieto at a news conference last week during his visit to Parliament Hill in Ottawa.Pena Nieto at a news conference last week during his visit to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

He was to take the formal oath of office later in the day.

The swearing-in ceremony at Congress and then a speech at the National Palace were set to be low on pomp and high on security as Calderon made a smooth transition his goal.

Six years ago, Calderon’s security unit literally had to muscle him past blockades and protesters to get him into Congress so he could take the oath of office after a razor-thin, disputed victory over a leftist candidate.

Demonstrations were likely outside Congress this time as well and at the city’s key monuments. But the country’s main leftist party pledged not to swarm the podium this time, and it planned no mass protests like those that paralyzed central Mexico City six years ago.

Mexicans divided, ambivalent

Mexicans for the most part seemed more focused on the end-of-the-month pay day and Christmas shopping than the arrival of a new president.

Divided and ambivalent, many people are wary of a return to the old days, but they’re also weary of Calderon’s National Action Party and the spike in violence during his six-year attack on organized crime, which has had a toll of 60,000 deaths by some estimates.

Government worker Antonio Vidal, 37, was confident his country wouldn’t see much of the PRI of old.

“We’ve invested heavily in our democracy,” he said. “It’s very closely watched by civil society, so I don’t think the PRI can return to their ways of fraud.”

Alma Rosa Martinez, a 40-year-old real estate agent, said she had a very bad feeling.

“It took 70 years to kick them out of power,” she said. “How long will it take to kick them out again?”

Focus on economy, jobs

Pena Nieto has pledged to make economic growth and job creation the centerpiece of his administration, with campaign manager and long-time confidant Luis Videgaray the point person.

Videgaray, a 44-year-old economist with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will lead the treasury department.

Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, a 48-year-old former state governor who is known as a political operator and deal maker, has been named secretary of the interior, a post that will play a key role in security matters.

A bill proposed by Pena Nieto would gather the police and security apparatus under the control of the Interior Department and create a new national anti-corruption commission. Those changes are expected to pass Congress next week.

Pena Nieto has also promised to push for reforms that could bring major new private investment into Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the crucial but struggling state-owned oil industry. Such changes have been blocked for decades by nationalist suspicion of foreign meddling in the oil business.

© The Associated Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

Aboriginal HIV infections a growing problem in Canada

Aboriginal AIDS activists in Canada say they are trying to lower the high rate of HIV infections among First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network is launching a national awareness campaign in Winnipeg on Saturday — to coincide with World AIDS Day — with the goal of reducing the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.

“We need to say to our own community, ‘Listen to the messages about HIV and AIDS. Protect yourself. Go get a test if you put yourself at risk,'” said Art Zoccole, president of the network’s board.

“These are our future generations, and there is a responsibility of us in the aboriginal community to take care of each other and [get] everybody involved.”

While First Nations, Métis and Inuit people represent 3.8 per cent of Canada’s population, they account for 7.5 per cent of Canadians living with HIV, according to 2006 census figures.

As well, aboriginal people accounted for 12.5 per cent of all new HIV infections in Canada in 2008, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

That all means the HIV infection rate for aboriginal Canadians was 3.6 times higher than the rate for other Canadians in 2008.

The federal health agency says injection drug use is the main way aboriginal people get exposed to HIV, and the number of cases continues to rise, especially among women.

Risky lifestyles

Research is underway to find out why the infection rate is so high, but there is concern that an alarming number of aboriginal Canadians are engaging in risky lifestyles.

The agency has found that aboriginal HIV cases attributed to injected drug use has gone up to more than 50 per cent in the period spanning 2001 to 2008 from 18 per cent before 1995.

Brenda Pelletier says her family has withdrawn from her since she was diagnosed with HIV about 12 years ago. She is now speaking to aboriginal communities about HIV and AIDS.Brenda Pelletier says her family has withdrawn from her since she was diagnosed with HIV about 12 years ago. She is now speaking to aboriginal communities about HIV and AIDS. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

Brenda Pelletier, 60, of Winnipeg said she contracted HIV 12 years ago after she shared drug paraphernalia with a friend who she knew was HIV-positive.

“I didn’t think anything of it — like, you know, sharing — because when they said, ‘Use clean needles,’ I just thought, ‘Hmm, OK, clean needle, I got one,'” she recalled. “Four days after that, my friend died.”

Pelletier said since she was diagnosed with HIV, she has been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia, tuberculosis and other ailments.

Zoccole said more education is needed on how the virus is contracted, how people can protect themselves, and how people should get tested.

The theme of the network’s Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week campaign this year is “Getting to Zero,” which means zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero cases of discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.

Workshops on aboriginal HIV and AIDS issues will be held in Halifax, Regina, Toronto, Iqaluit and Victoria in the coming days as part of the campaign.

Ottawa investing in programs

Zoccole, who has had HIV for eight years and currently heads up the Toronto-based group Two-Spirited People of the First Nations, said there are very few agencies that provide services for HIV-positive aboriginal people in large cites.

There are even fewer resources for those in small and remote First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, he added.

“It’s concerning,” said federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

Aglukkaq said the federal government is investing in research, education and treatment programs, including a Health Canada project to develop aboriginal-language terminology concerning HIV and AIDS.

“We have translated a number of terms to the appropriate language of the aboriginal population,” she said.

Aglukkaq said while the availability of HIV- and AIDS-related services in remote communities is an issue, there are hospitals in a number of areas that can provide treatment.

“Education is fundamental in getting to the bottom of this, and we have to work in partnership with the community to educate young people,” she said. “But it has to be done in partnership with the community.”

Stigma remains in some communities

But Zoccole said sometimes those very communities are part of the problem.

“There’s still stigma and discrimination. So when that happens, sometimes, the result is that the person living with HIV and AIDS needs to move and relocate to a place that’s safe for them,” he said.

Art Zoccole of the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network says some people don't know what a female condom is, or how it could help women protect themselves from HIV infection.Art Zoccole of the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network says some people don’t know what a female condom is, or how it could help women protect themselves from HIV infection. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

“They almost get ostracized from their communities, and it’s very unfortunate … Aboriginal people need to take a greater stand against, you know, this kind of discrimination that we’re doing to our own family and in our own community. It’s not right.”

Pelletier said her own family has withdrawn from her, with some members even changing their phone numbers.

“They dumped me. They didn’t want nothing to do with me,” she said. “You feel like you’re not good enough to be with people, unless they are HIV [positive] too.”

But Pelletier said she is trying to be part of the solution by taking part in a speaking tour organized by a non-profit aboriginal service agency in Winnipeg.

“I go into communities and I talk and I’ll tell them how I got it, if they ask,” she said. “I hope that they have listened.”

Pelletier and others say the best way to stem the rise in HIV and AIDS cases among aboriginal people is by teaching young people — in a culturally appropriate way — how to protect themselves.

Thousands rally in support of Egypt’s president

Tens of thousands of people waving Egyptian flags and hoisting large pictures of the president are demonstrating across Egypt in support of him and Islamic law.

The Saturday rally, organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, is seen as a test of strength for Islamists seeking to counteract large opposition protests held this past week.

The Islamists argue that the liberals, who are still labouring to create a cohesive opposition nearly two years after the uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, do not represent the vast majority of Egyptians.

The Brotherhood and harder-line Islamists won nearly 75 per cent of the seats in last winter’s parliamentary election. But liberals highlight the fact that President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood’s political party, won only 25 per cent of votes in the first round of presidential elections. He went on to win the runoff by just over 50 per cent, after a divisive race against a former regime figure.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly liberal and secular forces, took to the streets twice this week opposing Morsi’s decrees to grant himself sweeping powers.

On Friday, up to 200,000 people packed the streets of Cairo alone, vowing to bring down a draft constitution approved by allies of Morsi, and demanding he repeal the decrees that neutralized the judiciary.

Morsi says he acted to prevent courts led by former regime holdovers from delaying a transition to democracy and dissolving the assembly that wrote the draft constitution.

“The people support the president’s decision!” chanted crowds outside Cairo University, where more than 10,000 had gathered by midday. They held posters that read “Yes to stability” and “Yes to Islamic law”.

The draft was passed by an Islamist-led assembly early Friday and is expected to be presented to the president Saturday. He will then decide on a date for a nationwide referendum, possibly in mid-December.

Egypt’s constitutional Court rules on Sunday whether to dissolve the assembly. Liberal, secular and Christian members had already quit the body in protest of what they call the Islamists’ hijacking of the process.

Brotherhood rallies pro-Morsi camp

Near Cairo University, dozens of Brotherhood buses stood parked after transporting people from outside the capital to the rally.

Thousands others arrived on foot, chanting in support of Morsi as they marched. Among supporters of the rally, which also calls for Islamic law, are the Gamaa Islamaiyya — a fundamentalist group that fought an insurrection against the government in the 1990s — and the Salafi Nour Party, seen as more conservative than the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood had originally said it would hold Saturday’s rally in Tahrir Square, where the opposition has erected dozens of tents since Morsi issued his decrees last week, but changed their location to avoid confrontation.

The group said it cancelled its rally in the southern city of Luxor after clashes between rival camps broke out there Friday.

Clashes sparked by the two-week old crisis have left two dead and hundreds injured.

© The Associated Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

Economic growth continues to slacken off

Advisers to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, now expect India’s GDP to rise by between 5.5 and 6 per cent this year – the slowest rate since 2002-3. With a downturn stretching into 2014, an election year, Mr Singh and his centre-left Congress party have launched initiatives such as raising subsidised diesel prices and opening up sectors such as supermarkets to foreign players.

Another of the Bric group of emerging economies, Brazil, reported growth of 0.6 per cent in the three months to September compared with the previous quarter – half the rate expected by analysts. Businesses cut their investment by 2 per cent, while consumer spending growth was a sluggish 0.9 per cent, figures showed.

Theo Fennell deadline is extended

The Takeover Panel had initially given EME Capital until yesterday to make a firm offer for Theo Fennell, whose creations are worn by celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Victoria Beckham and Lady Gaga, pictured.

Following a request from the jeweller’s board, the deadline was yesterday extended until 11 January. Theo Fennell, named after its founder and interim managing director, made a loss of £1.7m last year and has not made a profit since 2007-8. The company said yesterday it “remains in offer discussions with EME, [which is] currently reviewing information which has been made available by the company” but added: “There can be no certainty an offer will be made”.

Willie Walsh takes Spanish pilots’ union to court

International Airlines Group (IAG) has lodged a claim against the union over walkouts called late last year and early this year against the creation of the Spanish airline’s budget subsidiary, Iberia Express.

“The claim is made under European law which provides that airline groups should be free to establish air services across Europe,” IAG said. “IAG is seeking a declaration that its EU rights were infringed and British Airways is seeking damages because the strikes affected its business, causing it to incur financial loss.”

The move comes weeks after Mr Walsh, who faced years of strikes by Britain’s Unite union after he restructured BA, announced plans to axe 4,000 jobs and sell aircraft at Iberia, admitting the loss-making carrier was in a “fight for survival”. He also warned that “time is not on our side” for Iberia.